The Enigmatic God

Today is Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Ash Wednesday.

Day 22,273

SEVEN days until our Glen Rose Weekend!!!

Quote of the Day

“Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”
I have personally said, “If you hate the haters, you’re just another hater.”

Word of the Day

Abecedarian ~ of or relating to the alphabet. (Merriam-Webster) Once you know what it means, I bet you can figure out how to pronounce it.

As noted above, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I will be, for the first time in my life, observing Lent this year. That’s all I’m going to say about it, because I don’t believe in broadcasting the nature of my “fast” to the world. Jesus, I believe, was very clear about that. Only two people know what I am doing; my wife and my pastor. And I know what my pastor is doing. We’re kind of in this together, I believe. Not doing the same thing, but sharing in it. If you are observing Lent, I pray that your time is rewarding and provides you with a deeper relationship with Christ.

If you have been paying attention to the countdown, you might notice that I skipped a number between yesterday and today. That’s because I checked with the cabin owners, and our Cedar House is available Wednesday night. So we are going to spend an extra night there, this year. For the first time we will be spending four nights! I tell you truthfully, I can hardly wait for next Wednesday! And since I’m observing Lent, I plan to take advantage of the setting for some hopefully extraordinary meditation and contemplation.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.

Psalm 9:9-10

Today I am grateful:
1. For a season of obtaining a deeper relationship with God.
2. For coffee (I know I’ve said that before).
3. That God speaks to us in may different ways.
4. That He can help me to listen for Him with my heart and my mind.
5. That He will help me understand the enigma if I but listen with faith.

Almighty God,
you have given us grace at this time with one accord
  to make our common supplication to you;
and you have promised through your well-beloved Son
  that when two or three are gathered together 
  in his Name you will be in the midst of them:
Fulfill now, O Lord, our desires and petitions
  as may be best for us;
granting us in this world knowledge of your truth,
and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

(The Book of Common Prayer, A Prayer of St. Chrysostom)

(From Faith That Matters)

Today’s reading is “God’s Incarnate Word to You,” by Frederick Buechner.

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. 
Psalm 85:8

The NIV, which is the version used in the devotional reading (above is ESV), renders Psalm 85:8, I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—but let them not turn to folly. I don’t know any Hebrew, but I like that version better, because of the declaration, “I will listen.”

“Because the word that God speaks to us is always an incarnate word–a word spelled out to us not alphabetically, in syllables, but enigmatically, in events, even in the books we read and the movies we see–the chances are we will never get it just right.” If you look up “enigmatically,” you will find that one of the definitions is “perplexing; mysterious.” Of course, it springs from the noun “enigma,” which means, “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.” We’ve all heard the phrase, “God moves in mysterious ways,” right? A bit of a digression, but just trying to add some perspective.

Buechner goes on to mention how prone we are to hear only what we want to hear and are deaf to “what it would be well for us to hear.” It’s a hard habit to break. Listening is an endangered art. “But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear him, he is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, his word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling.”

I’m learning quickly that this is one of the benefits of meditation and contemplation. It is both thinking and listening. Sometimes, I spend a few moments doing nothing but thinking (or even murmuring under my breath) “You are God!” Over and over. I know. Again, there are people who are violently opposed to this kind of thing. I don’t really understand why, but that’s not the topic of today. When I am in that mode, I am also in the mode of hearing whatever God wants to say back to me.

But rest assured . . . I will always check what I think I hear against His already revealed Word. I’ve heard people say some pretty ridiculous things immediately following the phrase, “I’ve got a word from the Lord . . .” I’m not one of those kind of people. If I think I’m hearing something, I’m going to check and re-check to be sure.

Anyway . . . the point of today is to try to listen better to God’s words to us, His “incarnate word,” which is, of course, Jesus. One of the things that Dallas Willard has said is that we need to put the words of Jesus into practice and find them to be true. That is one of the simplest explanations of the Christian life I have ever heard.

“When you listen to the book of your life, what is the Lord saying? What does he say about who you are?”

Father, help me to listen to Your voice with my heart and my mind, “to all of what you’re telling me about who you are and who I am.” Teach me Your way, that I may walk in Your truth. Help me to put the words of Jesus into practice in my daily life. I also pray for strength to accomplish what I have set out to do during this Lenten season.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, 2 Corinthians 13:14)

Soli Deo Gloria!

I Shall Not Die, But Live

Today is Saturday, May 5, 2018. Day 21,968.

Eight more days until Mother’s Day!

Buddha (who knows if it’s his birthday??) said, “Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” BrainyQuote
Pretty much the same as one of the points Jesus was trying to make. If we live life by the words of Jesus, we will have nothing to fear. Not even death.

The word for today is cinquefoil, a noun which means, “any of several plants belonging to the genus Potentilla, of the rose family, having yellow, red, or white five-petaled flowers.”

C will be back this afternoon, and she will be quite tired, as she said she only got three hours of sleep last night. They didn’t finish bowling until 2:50, NY time. The good news is that she bowled a 196 in her last game!! That’s awesome! As I am typing this, she is on the first leg of her flight home, heading for DC for a layover for the final trip home.

The Red Sox beat the Rangers, last night, 5-1. The interesting thing about this game was that all but one of the runs were scored by solo home runs. Mookie Betts hit one, Rafael Devers hit two (one of which was crushed into the upper deck of right field), and J.D. Martinez hit one. The fifth run was scored in the eighth, when Hanley Ramirez hit a double, plating Sandy Leon. The Rangers’ single run was scored on a solo home run by Nomar Mazara. Boston’s record improves to 23-9, remaining one game up on the Yankees in the AL East. The Yanks have won 13 of their last 14 games! The Sox also kept their position as the best in MLB, by one game. The Rangers’ record is now 13-21. They continue their series in Arlington tonight. As previously mentioned, I have tickets to this game, and will be sitting with a group of fellow CEVA employees. I suspect I will be the only one wearing Red Sox gear.

All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

“Almighty God, who after the creation of the world rested from all your works and sanctified a day of rest for all your creatures;
Grant that we, putting away all earthly anxieties,
may be duly prepared for the service of your sanctuary,
and that our rest here upon earth may be a preparation for the eternal rest promised to your people in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.” (The Book of Common Prayer)

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite.
O LORD, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you. 
Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! 
For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. 
I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, 
like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. 
You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 
Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah. 
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; 
my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. 
Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah. 
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? 
Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 
But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. 
O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? 
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. 
Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 
They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.

Psalm 88

It is rare, but this Psalm seems to have nothing positive in it. The best thing I can take away from it is that, even though God appears to have abandoned the Psalmist, he continues to cry out to him. The Psalmist does not give up. This is a good lesson for us. No matter how bad things seem to get, we must continue to cry out to God. He hears us, and he will answer. We must endure the “dark night of the soul,” and we will come out the other side stronger for it.

I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the LORD.
Psalm 118:17

Who’s ready to die?

Not me, that’s for sure! In spite of what Buddha said, above, regardless if I fear or do not fear death, I’m not ready for it.

Death is truly unknown. I have observed it, or at least been very close to it. I have seen people on death’s doorstep. I have been with more than one relative mere hours before death took them. One was awake, and, I must admit, looked terrified.

I stood by while my father’s body passed away, but I am firmly convinced that his soul was already gone. The body was being kept alive by machines. There was no evidence of any spiritual life.

What is it like to die? I certainly don’t know, and I don’t know anyone who can tell me. We have speculation. As Dallas Willard (I know . . . I keep talking about him) passed from this life to the next, it is said, by the man who was with him, that he turned his head to the wall and faintly said, “Thank you!” That, my friends, is chilling! I don’t need to guess who he was talking to!

Dallas opined that, if someone is walking closely enough to Jesus, they might not even be aware of when death took them; that it would just be a smooth transition from one plane of existence to another. He might be right.

Still, I find that I am not quite ready. For one thing, I feel that I still have responsibilities on this earth to take care of. For another, I do not feel that I am walking closely enough to Jesus yet. I still have work to do.

But we have these promises from Jesus, and other places in Scripture, that “death” is not permanent. In fact, “death,” as an enemy, has been defeated by Jesus Christ. We are told that we will have eternal life. That eternal life begins when we start walking with Christ in his kingdom. And it will continue when we transition into the permanent Kingdom of Heaven.

There is hope and assurance in Scripture for us. Physical death is not the end. It is something we must endure, unless Jesus returns while we are still alive. But we will rise. And we will be with him forever.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5
And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
1 John 2:25

Father, thank you for these promises. I also thank you for the assurance that, if I am walking uprightly, in your kingdom, and in the easy yoke of Jesus, this world is a perfectly safe place to be. I need fear nothing . . . not even death. Help me, though, to walk better and more closely.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.

Grace and peace, friends.